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High-speed police pursuits in Los Angeles and across California place the lives of innocent bystanders at risk. When police pursue suspects, they sometimes cause accidents with other motorists or pedestrians. People who are injured and the families of those who are killed in police pursuits may have little recourse because of governmental immunity. The California Supreme Court will soon hear the case of Ramirez v. City of Gardena, Cal. Ct. App. No. B279873, a case in which there is a question of how broadly the immunity from lawsuits should be interpreted when police engage in high-speed pursuits.

Factual and procedural background

On Feb. 15, 2015, Mark Gamar was riding as a passenger in a vehicle. A report had been made to law enforcement that cell phones had been stolen at gunpoint, and the vehicle in which Gamar was riding matched the description. Police officers who saw the truck in which Gamar was a passenger engaged in a high-speed pursuit of it. An officer performed a pursuit intervention technique maneuver in which the officer struck the left rear end of the truck to get it to stop. The collision caused the truck to spin out of control and strike a streetlight pole. Gamar was killed in the collision, and his mother filed a lawsuit against the city and the police department. The city filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it was protected from lawsuits by governmental immunity. The court agreed and granted the motion. Gamar’s mother, Irma Ramirez, appealed the dismissal to the California Court of Appeals. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision. She then filed an appeal to the California Supreme Court, which will decide how broad qualified immunity for officers engaged in pursuits is when accidents happen.

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Drivers in California who are confronted with unexpected emergency situations and who react reasonably to the circumstances cannot be held to be liable if they cause injuries to others. In Shiver v. Laramie, (2018) Cal. App. 2d, Case No. B283420, the appeals court ruled that the emergency doctrine can apply in cases that involve road rage.

Factual background

In Sept. 2014, three cars were driving in the on-ramp to the U.S. 101 freeway in Santa Maria to merge into the southbound lanes. A tractor-trailer was being driven in the #3 lane of the freeway, which was the far right lane into which the three cars were trying to merge. The driver of the tractor-trailer, Charles Laramee, saw the three vehicles on the on-ramp and noticed that a black car was driving aggressively behind the front car. The front car was being driven by a woman named Michelle Adams.

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insurance-payment-sexual-assault-claim
In California, many liability insurance policies contain exclusions for injuries that result from intentional acts. This means that it can be difficult for injured victims to recover compensation when they are injured by the intentional actions of insured parties. In Liberty Surplus Insurance Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Construction Company Inc., Case No. S236765, the California Supreme Court recently addressed a case in which the employee of a construction company committed a sexual assault on a 13-year-old girl while he was working on a construction site at a school. The insurance company tried to assert that the exclusion for coverage applied because the act of the employee was intentional, and the company filed a lawsuit against the insurance company.

Factual background

The Ledesma & Meyer Construction Company secured a contract from the San Bernadino Unified School District to complete a construction project at a middle school. The company hired a man named Darrell Hecht to serve as an assistant superintendent and assigned him to manage the construction project at the middle school. While Hecht was on site at the school, he sexually molested a 13-year-old girl. The girl’s family filed a lawsuit against the Ledesma & Meyer Construction Company alleging that the company negligently hired, supervised and retained Hecht.

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Emergency-Room-Bills-Personal-Injury-AccidentWhen people in California have health insurance through health management organizations, they normally will go to their in-network providers for care. However, when people are injured in accidents and are forced to seek care in emergency departments, the hospitals may not have pre-negotiated contracts with the HMOs. This might mean that the HMOs may refuse to pay the full amount that they are billed for the provided services. In some cases, doctors have subsequently billed the patients for the balance between what they billed the HMOs and the amounts that they received, which is a practice called balance billing. The Supreme Court of California ruled that balance billing is not allowed in the state in Prospect Health Source Medical Group, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Saint John’s Emergency Medicine Specialists, Inc., et al., Defendants and Respondents, 45 Cal.4th 497 (2009).

Factual background of the case

Prospect Health Source Medical Group is an individual practice care association that manages care through written contracts with health plans. It contracts with medical providers and hospitals to provide patient care to its members at contracted rates. When people go to one of the providers in the network, Prospect pays the provider the agreed-upon rate. However, patients who have to go to the emergency department might go to a hospital that does not have a contract with Prospect.

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work-related-car-accidentsAs a Los Angeles work-related car accident injury attorney, I know that many people in L.A. are required to drive for their jobs on either an occasional or routine basis. In some cases, people who are driving for work reasons are involved in car accidents. People who are working within the course and scope of their employment when their accidents happen are entitled to file workers’ compensation claims with their employers’ workers’ compensation insurance carrier. In addition, if the other involved motorist was at fault in causing the accident, the injured victim may file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Getting help from a Los Angeles personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyer might help you to recover the maximum potential compensation to pay for both your economic and noneconomic losses.

Types of Jobs that Require Employees to Drive

Many different types of jobs require workers to drive as a part of their work duties. Some common types of jobs that require employees to drive include the following:

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lane-change-accident-lawyer-attorneyAs an unsafe lane change accident attorney in Los Angeles, I know that, despite Mayor Garcetti’s Drive to Zero initiative, traffic accidents in Los Angeles have been increasing. In 2016, for example, 260 people were killed in Los Angeles accidents. The city also experienced an overall increase of 7 percent in the total number of vehicle collisions from 2015 to 2016 with a total of 55,350 collisions happening in 2016. Across the state, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,623 people were killed in 2016, which was a significant increase over the number of people who died in 2015.

Part of the increase can be attributed to an increased number of vehicles on the roads. Because of the traffic congestion in and around Los Angeles, some drivers make unsafe lane changes. When a driver suddenly changes lanes with little warning, they may collide with other motorists or cause the motorists who are present in the lanes to swerve into traffic in order to avoid being hit. Unsafe lane change accidents can cause serious injuries or fatalities, and they are especially dangerous for motorcyclists.

Causes of unsafe lane change accidents

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Sexual-Assault-Claims-California-LawCan an employee in California sue their employer if they are sexually assaulted in the workplace and the employer had some prior notice that the assault could occur?  The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) provides protections to workers from discrimination, including sexual harassment. The law allows workers to sue their employers when they suffer discrimination or sexual harassment while they are working. In M.F. v. Pacific Pearl Hotel Management LLC, Cal. App. 4th, No. D070150, the court ruled that workers are able to sue their employers under the FEHA when they have been sexually harassed or assaulted by nonemployees at their jobs.

Issue: Can an employee can sue her employer for nonemployee sexual harassment under the FEHA?

M.F. was employed as a housekeeper at the Pacific, which is a five-building hotel property owned by Pacific Pearl Hotel Management LLC. The hotel’s engineering manager saw a trespasser on the hotel property one morning who was not a guest of the hotel. The trespasser was intoxicated and was carrying a beer, but the engineering manager did not tell him to leave or report his presence to the housekeeping staff. Later, the trespasser approached one of the housekeepers while she was cleaning a room and tried to give her money in exchange for sexual favors. A maintenance worker who was working nearby overheard and helped the housekeeper to make the trespasser leave the room. The trespasser then went to another hotel room where a housekeeper was cleaning and tried to get into the room. He again offered money for sexual favors. The housekeeper was able to close the door on the man and reported the incident to her manager.

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California-Personal-Injury-Case-LawWhen people in California decide to participate in inherently risky activities, they assume the risk that they will be injured unless the operators of the activities engaged in conduct that was grossly negligent. In Grotheer v. Escape Adventures, Cal. Ct. App. 4D, Case no. E0634449, the court examined the concept in the context of a hot-air balloon ride in which a female passenger was injured after signing an express waiver of liability.

Issue: Is a balloon company a common carrier, and was the express waiver of liability sufficient to preclude a finding of liability?

Grotheer, a 78-year-old German woman, was a passenger on a hot-air balloon ride that had been purchased for her by her son while she was visiting California. Grotheer could not speak English. Prior to the ride, her son explained that she could not speak or understand English to the balloon operator but was apparently waved off. Grotheer signed an express waiver of liability prior to the balloon’s takeoff. The trip was apparently uneventful until the landing. The balloon descended too rapidly and crashed through a fence before crashing forcefully to the ground. The force of the landing caused the balloon’s basket to skip across the ground before it came to rest on its side. Grotheer landed at the bottom, and her leg was broken in the crash-landing. She filed a lawsuit against the balloon’s operator, the balloon company and the vineyard from where the balloon launched, alleging negligence. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Grotheer assumed the risk when she chose to go on the hot-air balloon ride, that the company was not negligent or that if it was, it was not grossly negligent to the extent that the assumption of the risk standard would not apply.

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Los-Angeles-Drivers-Worst-CountryAre Los Angeles drivers the worst in the country? A new study suggests they may be.  Los Angeles is a dangerous city in which to drive. Many people have long complained about how badly people drive in Los Angeles, and their complaints have been validated by the findings of a recent study. According to the Allstate America’s Best Driver Report, Los Angeles ranked a dismal 193 out of 200 cities, demonstrating the problematic driving behaviors that are engaged in by L.A. drivers. In addition to the property losses caused by bad driving, many people are seriously injured or killed in the city each year because of bad driving. People who are injured and the families of victims who are killed because of bad driving by others may pursue compensation by filing civil lawsuits against the negligent drivers who caused their accidents or those of their loved ones.

The Allstate study showing Los Angeles drivers some of the worst in the country

Allstate looked at data from 200 U.S. cities in order to determine which cities had the best drivers and which had the worst. The company made their determinations based on the average number of years that drivers in the cities went between accidents. Los Angeles drivers average 5.9 years between accidents, placing the city near the bottom for the driving behaviors of its motorists. Kansas City, Kansas took the number one spot for safe driving. Drivers in that city average 14.9 years between accidents. The city with the worst drivers was Boston. Drivers there average just 3.6 years between accidents. The study points to the need for drivers to exercise caution while driving. There are several problematic driving behaviors that are engaged in by many Los Angeles motorists that can lead to accidents that injure others. These driving problems are prohibited by California law and are evidence of negligence when accidents result.

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bike-helmet-injury-preventionDo mandatory bike helmet laws reduce injuries?  When bicyclists are involved in accidents in California, they are much likelier to suffer from severe brain trauma and head injuries than are motor vehicle occupants. Without helmets, cyclists do not have protection from the environment around them when they strike their heads in accidents. This leaves them with a greater risk of suffering from serious injuries or dying in collisions with motor vehicles.

While California has a law mandating that bicyclists under a certain age wear helmets whenever they ride bicycles, it does not mandate that adult cyclists wear helmets. There are proponents and opponents of mandatory bicycle helmet legislation, and both sides have a number of valid points to consider. Regardless of what the law is, bicycle helmets are important safety equipment that Los Angeles personal injury attorneys believe that all cyclists should use every time that they ride their bicycles. Helmets provide the remaining line of defense to suffering from serious brain injuries when people are struck by vehicles or when they have other types of cycling accidents.

California’s bicycle helmet law

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